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Cable/Video

DSL Doldrums Redux

10:20 AM -- A week ago, in DSL Doldrums, I explained that I was having a DSL problem and I was interested in relating my adventures in the happy world of RBOC technical support.

One week later, my DSL is running -- kind of. It continues to suffer from on-again/off-again syndrome. At any rate, here's what's happened in the past seven days:

Monday, Oct. 10: technical support remotely checks the line. They say it appears to be fine. It's running 1.5 Mbit/s! they say. I remind them that that's not right, because I normally have the 768-kbit/s service, and that, in fact, my DSL is running Molasses slow -- slower than a 56-kbit/s modem. We go through a basic troubleshooting program. The conversation ends, I believe at the time, with them telling me they're going to send somebody out to check the box in my neighborhoood. (Oh no! Truck roll!) They tell me the process will take "72 hours." (That's three days in normal English -- which sounds a lot longer, doesn't it?)

Thursday, Oct. 13: Arriving home late at night after a day at Ethernet Expo, I decide to check the DSL line. (See Ethernet Expo: It's Raining Packets). It's been 72 hours, after all. It's now not working at all. I decide to try my own troubleshooting techniques, such as trying a different modem (I have a spare); trying a different computer (there are three in the house); disconnecting the router and going straight into the modem; swapping out Ethernet cords; trying a different phone jack. None of these changes a thing. (All the jacks have dial tone, by the way, and there are filters on all the lines connected to phones.)

I decide to once again negotiate the treacherous world of Verizon tech support, which requires running a gauntlet of phone menus and 20 minutes of wait time, to see how that "72 hour" line check is going. I finally get an alleged human -- a person I will refer to as Testy Technical Support Woman (TTSW) -- who tells me my "trouble ticket has been closed." What does that mean? I ask. "You don't have a trouble ticket," she says, sounding somewhat satisfied. (Is she, by any chance, a Jets fan?)

Ah yes, I see. No trouble ticket -- no trouble!

I kindly explain to TTSW that despite the lack of a trouble ticket, I'm indeed still having trouble. When was the trouble ticket closed, anyway? TTSW informs me that my trouble ticket had been closed Monday, after my discussion with technical support. In other words, Verizon had unilaterally closed my trouble ticket, without informing me.

I escalate the situation to Tech Support Manager Man, perturbed that they've closed my trouble ticket without telling me. He patches me to a "Level 3 Technician." (Sounds fancy, eh?)

Mr. Level Three Technician is indeed more sophisticated, but he's also a bit condescending (if only we could all be a Level Three). I explain all of the troubleshooting items I've tried, but he scoffs at suggestions that it might be the line. "It's probably Spyware," he says smugly.

Now, all three of the computers in my house have antivirus and Spyware scanning software, I say. And besides, I've tried them all -- the DSL problem is the same on all of them. Wouldn't it be a little strange if they all got infected at exactly the same time?

He runs through a memory check of my computer with me. "Definitely the Spyware. I can tell you that for sure."

So you won't send a technician?

Not for Spyware, says Mr. Super Duper Level Three Technician.

I hang up. I run antivirus scans and Spyware scans. The computers appear to be clean. It's about 1AM. I go to bed.

Saturday, Oct. 15: We wake up on Saturday to a beautiful, sunny day, after seven days of torrential rain in the New York area. After breakfast, I decide to try the DSL. It works! It's lightning fast! For 5 minutes -- then it stops. Seeing the brilliant sunshine outside, it occurs to me that the problems were possibly related to the rain. I go outside and check the interface box, wipe it dry with a towel, check all the connections. It's damp, but not flooded. I come back inside. The DSL is no longer working.

I call Verizon technical support. I explain the history of my DSL troubles and today, for the first time, Mr. Technical Support appears to be somewhat sympathetic. He asks if they've checked the line yet. "Well, yeah, remotely," I said. Mr. Sympathetic Technical Support man says hold on, he'll run a few tests. Then he announces, "Yes, one test says your line is fine, but then I ran another test that indicates there may be a short circuit somewhere along the line."

Really? So what do I do?
Truck Roll!

I call up to cancel my installation appointment. (On Friday, I had made my cable broadband installation appointment, just in case.)

Monday, Oct. 17: I'm awaiting the arrival of the technican as we speak. Of course, this morning, my DSL was working fine.

Here's my own, wholly un-technical conclusion: It was probably the rain. It definitely wasn't Spyware.

— R. Scott Raynovich, US Editor, Light Reading

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